Friday, July 25, 2008

Writing a Knol article for Google's new encyclopedia

As I explained over in my Bestiaria Latina blog, I'm very excited about the launching of Google's online encyclopedia, Knol. I wrote a few articles about Aesop's fables (my academic area of expertise) on the day that the service launched, and I hope very much that teachers and professors will take advantage of this great opportunity to share their knowledge online. In this post, I wanted to show just how easy it is to contribute an article, called a "knol" (unit of knowledge), to the encyclopedia.

When you go to, you will find a link in the upper right-hand corner allowing you to sign in to your Google account (the same sign in as for Gmail,, and all the other Google services). After you sign in, you will see a link to "My Knols" - this is how you manage your existing knols and create new ones.

There is also a big "Write a Knol" button which you can click to get started:

The form for creating the knol is very straightforward, with the same kinds of controls in a typical word processor or email program:

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Title. The title will become part of the webpage address of your knol, so choose it carefully. You can change the title later if you want, but since this is how people will be linking to your article, it is best if you can choose the best title now, checking it carefully for typos.

Affiliation. You can state your affiliation briefly here, and your knol will also be linked to your Knol Bio (more on that below).

Summary. The summary is very important because it will be displayed in search results. The summary should give people a clear idea of what they will find in your article, especially if there is any kind of ambiguity in the title.

There are additional tips from the folks at Google about writing and formatting the content of your knol.

As you write make sure to Save your work, using the Save button in the upper left-hand corner:

You can save your knol as a draft without publishing it. Then, when you are ready to publish, just click on the Publish button in the right-hand column:

You can access all of your knols by clicking on the My Knols link at the top of the page. You can then click on the link in order to view, edit or manage that particular knol.

Click on manage in order to change the rights and permissions for the knol, and also if you want to unpublish or delete the knol.

In addition to the knols that you write, there is a knol automatically created for you, which is your Bio. To edit this knol, just click on My Bio along the top of the screen, or choose the Bio knol from your list of knols.

In addition to the information in your Bio knol, you have a Google profile which you can edit. To edit your Google profile (including the photo that displays with your articles), just click on the Edit My Profile link:

One of the main differences between Google's Knol project and Wikipedia is the use of author attribution for the articles. Wikipedia articles are unattributed, but Google's Knol articles do have authors, and it important to make use of the Knol Bio and your Google profile to make your credentials and perspective as an author clear.

Google also offers a name verification service - although I haven't had any luck with that so far; I've tried clicking on the "Verify Name" link but I keep getting a Server Error when I choose the credit card verification method (you can also verify by phone if you have a phone number listed in your name). Oh well: my name may not be verified, but - trust me! - I don't have any reasons to believe that someone else wants to pretend to be Laura-Gibbs-who-is-obsessed-with-Aesop... really! :-)

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